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More from the Pirate Book.

January 30, 2010

Just wanted to share one of the most honest things I have ever written.

After the book store (at the Creation Musuem), I couldn’t take anymore. I left my group and went outside. I watched the atheists mill around the grounds outside. I watched the Christian families eat their picnic lunches by the beautiful lake. It seemed like two races of aliens, neither of which I could join.

I didn’t know what to think about the whole experience. I felt alone. I felt confused. Everything I felt the past year of working with atheists and being a Christian minister crashed down on me at that moment. I felt isolated from the atheists because of my firm belief in God. There are times when atheists have described me as “almost one of them” because of my love for science and reason. I make it a point to adamantly deny this statement. It amazes me to think that some people would think that my faith would cave that easily, especially in light of most of the atheist objections to Christianity I consider highly unconvincing. I mean, I realize it’s their way of saying they like me, so I try not to be rude about it. But, I tell them I won’t be joining their ranks any time soon, and sincerely doubt I ever will.

And yet, I also felt isoloated from my fellow Christians who walked the grounds at the museum because I thought there view of Genesis entirely mistaken. I consider their view bad exegesis and more of a product of the culture war mentality en vogue among many conservative Christians who come to the Creation Museum. Even worse, I felt if they knew that they would question my belief in God and would question how faithful I’m really am.

It’s happened to me more and more since I started working with atheists. Christians ask me all the time about my faith and they take the time to warn me about the dangers to my faith. They give me worried and concerned looks as if they are afraid I’ll drop my faith with the right atheist argument. These are people who are friends of mine and should know better.

I appreciate the concern. I know it’s supposed to make me feel better because people are concerned about me. Truthfully, it doesn’t really make me feel that way at all. It makes me feel isolated when I’m around other Christians. It makes me feel as they think I’m some sort of faith bomb that will go off at any moment spraying them with shattered faith debris.

Of course, this is probably all in my paranoid imagination. I tell myself this isn’t the case, but it’s hard to feel different. Even as I write this book, I feel the tension at times. That tension has led to a new brand of spiritual pride that could be described as “I know better than everyone elseitis”.

C.S. Lewis talks about this in the Screwtape Letters. Screwtape is talking about Wormwood’s patient hanging out with witty, urban nonbelivers on Saturday and then going to church with his fellow Christians the next day. Screwtape writes this,

“Your patient can be made to take a positive pleasure in the perception that the two sides of his life are inconsistent. This is done by exploiting his vanity. He can be taught to enjoy kneeling beside the grocer on Sunday just because he remembers that the grocer could not possibly understand the urbane and mocking world which he inhabits on Saturday evening; and contrawise enjoy the bawdy and blasphemy over the coffee with these admirable friends all the more because he is aware of a deeper, spiritual world within him which they cannot touch. You see the idea-the wordly friends touch him on side and the grocer on the other, and he is the complex man who sees around them all. Thus, while being permanently treacherous to at least two sets of people, he will feel, instead of shame, a continual undercurrent of self-satisfaction.”

I realized at that moment I was in serious danger of doing exactly what Screwtape described. My danger wasn’t that I would lose my faith. My problem wasn’t that I had become overly critical of other Christians. My issue had become that my pride had taken over against both Christians and Atheists. I had become perfectly treacherous to two groups of people and had grown to love the feeling. This had been the real part of my relunctance to attend the Creation Musuem. I had been afraid that I would have to pick a side and lose my superior status.

So, in the midst of all that, I prayed. I prayed that God would forgive me of my arrogant heart towards my fellow believers. I asked God to forgive my silent scorn of atheists. I I prayed that God would make me more open, more honest, more loving. I prayed that God would help me not to be so in love with myself and my own cleverness.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Richard Wade permalink
    February 1, 2010 6:51 pm

    Jonathan,

    As an atheist, I can say that you are one of us. By us I mean me and the other seven billion human beings who hang around here. The them/us distinctions are so petty and insignificant compared to our commonalities, even though so much hurt and death are dealt out over those trifles.

    I commend your efforts to bridge the huge yet tiny gulf between Christians and atheists. You and I are in the same business, building bridges on opposite sides of that absurdly narrow yet seemingly insurmountable crevasse. I am very happy to meet a kindred counterpart. Hellooooo over therrrrre! (waving)

    I hope your book is successful, and I hope your work does not wear you down too much. Take deep slow breaths, and take well-earned vacations. Don’t skip them. We, the seven billion and I, need people like you to be strong and healthy.

    I write an advice column from a humanist/atheist perspective over at Friendly Atheist, http://www.friendlyatheist.com a blog run by Hemant Mehta. I think you’re going to meet him as a fellow speaker at the upcoming Jubilee Conference. Come over to FA and say hello some time. Although there are some of the snarky, snappy types I’m sure you’ve already met, the overall purpose of the site is to promote positive and respectful dialogue and practical cooperation between believers and non-believers.

    When theists visit the site I never argue with them about their beliefs in gods. I only argue, very respectfully, with their beliefs about atheists, which are sadly often very unfortunate presumptions. Agreement is not important, only mutual understanding is. I also get in my fellow atheists’ faces if they get too far away from good manners or common sense.

    With warm regards,

    Richard Wade

  2. thomas2026 permalink*
    February 1, 2010 7:24 pm

    Hellloooo, back!!!!

    Richard, thanks very much. It’s comments like yours that keep me going. You don’t know how encouraging it is for me to hear you say all of this. Thanks.

    I’m a big fan of your columns over on Hemant’s site. Hemant and I are actually friends. In fact, I was the one who got Hemant to speak at Jubilee. In fact, Hemant, Ashley and I are going to be on a panal discussion together. I can’t wait for it, because it’s going to be awesome!

    Thanks again, Richard and welcome to the Thomas Society.

  3. Richard Wade permalink
    February 1, 2010 7:48 pm

    Jonathan, I’m glad to learn that you and Hemant are already friends, and it makes sense that you would be. I hope the panel discussion is pleasant, constructive and well-attended. I wish I could be there. Thanks for your encouragement in return.
    All the best.

  4. Knockgoats permalink
    February 2, 2010 9:01 am

    Jonathan (I gather that is your preferred name), how about a little less obsessing over the state of your own “soul”? It’s really rather disgusting to watch. I couldn’t care less about your “spiritual pride”; it’s your Biblical bigotry that’s objectionable.

  5. thomas2026 permalink*
    February 2, 2010 10:35 am

    Ah, Knockgoats, I missed you and here I thought you had gone away.

  6. Richard Eis permalink
    February 2, 2010 11:16 am

    We have been silently scorned Knockgoats. Oh my.

    I can’t help pointing out that “I know better than everyone elseitis” is a worldwide plague that affects believers and non-believers alike. Culminating in its strongest form in either grammar-nazism or mass KJV bible quoting.

    I also spotted 4 typos 😉

  7. Knockgoats permalink
    February 2, 2010 11:53 am

    Jonathan,

    There’s been nothing to argue with. I’m not so desperate for an argument as to argue with myself.

  8. thomas2026 permalink*
    February 2, 2010 12:25 pm

    How is that working out? Did you win?

  9. Knockgoats permalink
    February 2, 2010 1:27 pm

    Jonathan,

    I recommend a remedial literacy course – your reading comprehension is dreadful.

  10. thomas2026 permalink*
    February 2, 2010 2:51 pm

    Me no read very well. Me need learnin’.

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